Archaeological monuments in Onuškis area

Manvydas Vitkūnas

The paper deals with the archaeological heritage in the area of Onuškis (former Onuškis Valsčius or rural district, covering now a part of Trakai, Varėna and Alytus districts) and the attempt have been made to reconstruct the development of this land during prehistorical, medieval and Early Modern periods.

The archaeological heritage of Stone Age and Early metal period in the area of Onuškis is not rich. The sporadic archaeological finds available allow to say that the area had been inhabited already during the Mesolithic period (8000–4000 BC).

Up to now, not a single archaeological monument of the Early Iron Age (1st-4th c.) had been investigated in the area of Onuškis, moreover, there are no sporadic finds of this period there. According to the external signs, the mounds of Mirgeliai, Nupronys and Žuklijai II might be attributed to the start of the 1st millennium. It looks like that number of settlements and burial sites in the area studied started to grow from the middle of the 1st millennium. The most abundant group of archaeological monuments in the area of Onuškis comprises the barrows of the Middle and Late Iron Age. The Pamusiai barrow is up to now the best-explored archaeological site in this area. The cremation graves dated as of the 5th-10th centuries found there are typical of the burial monuments of a Lithuanian tribe. Moreover, the written sources show that Yotvingian settlements and graves of Iron Age and Medieval times could be south of Lake Vilkokšnis in the environs of Grendavė and Gudakiemis.

The archaeological heritage of Medieval and Early Modern periods in the area of Onuškis is underinvestigated. Only small-scale archaeological investigations had been performed at the site of Dusmenys estate and old cemetery of Miciūnai. Several coin hoards have been also found. Two hoards contained coins produced in the 16th century in the Lithuanian Grand Principality and neighbouring lands.

In the area of Onuškis, there are several mythological and sacred sites mentioned in folk stories and legends of sacred significance for local people during long ages.

Deeper investigation of the development of the Onuškis area, as based on archaeological data, would be possible only after more comprehensive studies are done.